Best Martial Arts Shoes

Updated July 2019
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
Bottom Line
Pros
Cons
How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

26 Models Considered
6 Hours Researched
1 Experts Interviewed
104 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.

Buying guide for best martial arts shoes

Last Updated July 2019

Martial arts shoes are specialty footwear designed to accommodate sharp movements and absorb shock from intense connections with the ground. While practitioners remain light on their feet, the shoes are designed to be rough-and-tumble-ready for heavy, high-impact use. Despite their tough construction, they’re typically made with different grades of breathable, lightweight materials.

The martial arts play a significant role in today’s culture. Its popularity is due, in part, to the excitement and accessibility of Bruce Lee’s movies. Lee’s legacy played an instrumental role in the rise of martial arts schools in America and inspired the growth of the industry. Now with an abundance of martial arts students, it’s no wonder that there’s a call for the right equipment to satisfy their needs.

Our shopping guide will help you figure out exactly what you’re looking for. We invite you to step in the ring and size up the competition among the pairs we examined.

Martial arts shoes are specialized sport footwear designed to be worn for isolated periods of time. Avoid wearing them for activities for which they are not suited.

Key considerations

Indoors or outdoors

Martial arts are practiced both indoors and outdoors, though some arts place more focus on location than others. Competitive fighting is typically indoors in a ring or octagon, whereas recreational practice could be outdoors to get in touch with nature. Depending on the type of practice space, martial arts shoes have different treads and soles to suit different floor and ground types.

Purpose of use

  • Light training: Because the intensity of martial arts varies, lower-impact arts don’t require the engineering of a professional martial arts shoe. Tai chi, for example, is a gentle, paced martial art for which lightweight canvas shoes are acceptable.

  • Demonstrations: Martial artists who participate on demonstration teams travel to perform at expositions. Because these events are usually held indoors, shoes should accommodate both hardwood floors and mats. Shoes with too much or too little grip could stunt the flow of movement during forms on these surfaces.

  • Competitive fighting: If you’re a competitive fighter, your investment in martial arts shoes is essentially an executive decision. Not only do you have to buy shoes within regulations, they should fit properly and support your foot in every area possible.

Socks or no socks

You may opt to forgo socks while wearing your martial arts shoes if you don’t need them. Lightweight pairs are delicate enough to be worn without socks, especially since their shoe collars are often cut below the ankle. As for heavier, reinforced martial arts shoes, you may benefit from wearing socks to avoid chafing or blisters.

EXPERT TIP

If you’re purchasing martial arts shoes for a child, measure their size frequently. A child who has a growth spurt may suddenly need a new pair the next size up.


Staff  | BestReviews
EXPERT TIP

You can extend the life of your martial arts shoes by using proper shoe care products. Select your products based on shoe material; leather and suede require a different treatment than canvas or breathable mesh.


Staff  | BestReviews

Features

Laces

Early versions of some martial arts shoes were simple, slip-on footwear. Pairs that now feature laces still gravitate toward the no-lace look. Some laces are hidden behind thin textile panels to keep their appearance to a minimum. Not only is the flat design an aesthetic feature, it also serves as a safety measure to help prevent you from snagging on opponents or items around you.

Low-cut or high-top

The ankle area is a point of contention between martial arts shoes. In low-cut pairs, the ankle is fully exposed. This is a common design for light practice and demonstration shoes, as these pairs avoid extra material that could add to the weight of the shoe.

High-top martial arts shoes are seen in competitive, professional-level boxing and MMA pairs. The ankle and parts of the calf are covered for lateral support and below-the-knee protection. There are different heights for high-tops, some of which are referred to as “mid-tops” as they rise only slightly above the ankle joint.

Materials

  • Canvas or cotton-based material: Lightweight materials like canvas and cotton blends are ideal for light, casual training on flat surfaces. They’re usually inexpensive and are easily washable with soap and water.

  • Leather: Premium, competition-level martial arts shoes are made of high-grade leather. They last the longest and maintain a long-term optimal fit, as the leather acclimates itself and molds around your foot after time. Leather is a breathable material, so even though your feet will sweat, it won’t be completely trapped inside your shoes.

  • Synthetic: Manufacturers have begun to use synthetic materials like spandex and other textile blends in martial arts shoes. These have quite a bit of give and flexibility with a sock-like fit. As some blends stretch out over time, they are often complemented by laces that pick up slack across the instep and quarter panels.

Martial arts shoes: prices

Martial arts shoes generally cost between $20 and $200. Pairs in the $20 to $40 range are basic, flat-soled shoes made from canvas or inexpensive textiles. They don’t hold up to much more than light training.

The $40 to $80 range includes shoes with features essential to martial arts practice, such as a pivot point and compact insole. On average, pairs in this range are well-built. Many are made by sports apparel manufacturers with dedicated martial arts product lines. You will also find cross-training sneakers that are flexible and versatile enough for indoor and outdoor practice in this price range.

Martial arts shoes in the $80 to $200 range are geared toward specific sports under the martial arts and fighting umbrella. MMA, capoeira, and boxing shoes are designed around regulations issued by the major federations in which they fight. As a result, they stay within the lines, and there are few differences between them. One perk in this price range is an abundance of color choices and aesthetic accents.

DID YOU KNOW?

Some martial arts shoes only come in men’s sizes. In this case, female wearers can refer to a size-down chart to find the right fit in the same shoe.

Tips

  • Find a lace pattern that is comfortable. Everyone’s feet are shaped differently, and changing the way you lace your martial arts shoes can improve comfort, fit, and flexibility.

  • Keep your feet fresh with sanitized shoes. Sweat is part and parcel of being a martial artist, so it’s expected that it will collect in your shoes. Pick up a UV shoe sanitizer to take your post-training cleanliness to the next level. It will help keep fungi, bacteria, and viruses at bay.

  • Buy more than one pair of martial arts shoes. Like sneakers, martial arts shoes take a beating, so they wear out after extended periods of heavy use. If you want to keep your shoes intact as long as possible, buy a second pair. Either rotate use between pairs or simply replace them once you start to see or feel excess wear.

  • Leave outdoor shoes at the door. For those who practice outdoors, remove your shoes before going inside so as not to track dirt.

  • Get your step in line with insoles. The high-impact nature of being a martial artist means a safe landing after floor and aerial techniques is of utmost importance. Insoles give an extra layer of shock absorption and provide support in important areas, such as the heel and ball of your foot.

  • Travel with a shoe bag. If you compete in tournaments, chances are you travel often. Shield your martial arts shoes from potential damage by carrying them in a protective travel shoe bag.

Other products we considered

A unique pair of martial arts shoes that caught our eye was the DOUBLESTAR MR Rubber Sole Light. Its canvas upper is a nod to traditional canvas slip-ons, but this pair is a step up with a reinforced toe box and mix of materials. The vulcanized rubber sole is thick and well-defined for solid connection, either indoors or outdoors.

For those who train outdoors, such as tai chi and capoeira practitioners, the Zcoli Barefoot Trail Running Shoes Minimalist Cross Training Sneakers are a modern option with great flexibility. They’re quick to fasten and remove with an adjustable hook-and-loop toggle closure. While its main textile, spandex, gives the shoe a snug, sock-like fit, the non-slip sole and arch support provide real durability. This is one of the few all-season martial arts shoes available — a perk for anyone who lives in an unpredictable climate.

Wear different shoes to your studio or dojo, and change them once you’re on the mat.

FAQ

Q. I don’t like the laces that came with my martial arts shoes. Can I get different ones?
A.
Absolutely. Just make sure they are the right length and material. Some laces have waxy coatings or fibers that cause them to untie if they’re not double-knotted. Measure your current laces before ordering to make sure your new ones are the right length.

Q. My new martial arts shoes are stiff and uncomfortable. How do I get used to them?
A.
There are some growing pains with new shoes of any kind, and martial arts shoes are no exception. Wear them around the house for a couple hours a day to let your feet get used to them; it’s not enough to just wear them to practice. A little extra time spent in the shoes can speed up how quickly you become comfortable with them.

Q. Part of the sole is coming off my martial arts shoes. Can I just glue it back on?
A.
You could, but if the sole is peeling away, it’s probably time for a new pair. Even if you glue it back on, the materials and shape of the shoe have already begun to shift, so the fit will deteriorate over time.

Q. I wear a foot/ankle brace. Which martial arts shoes would work best?
A.
Even ergonomic braces add reasonable bulk and material around the foot and ankle. Opt for well-constructed martial arts shoes that are cut below the ankle so they don’t obstruct the fit of your brace. Flat, lightweight shoes are too flimsy for the support you’ll need, and high-top shoes have a fit too tight to wear a brace under it.

The team that worked on this review
  • Devangana
    Devangana
    Web Producer
  • Eliza
    Eliza
    Production Manager
  • Kyle
    Kyle
    Writer
  • Melinda
    Melinda
    Web Producer
  • Melissa
    Melissa
    Senior Editor
  • Sian
    Sian
    Writer

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